By Roberta Bailey
As the first frost came, I must admit that I breathed a sigh of relief. This has been the most trying gardening season of my life, and now I can begin to put it behind me, but not without an eye toward the sky.
You may recall that the garden soil was drying nicely in mid-May. I seized the opportunity to plant my wettest ground to peas, five 70-foot rows, which nicely filled an area that was usually far too wet to cultivate until early June. Then the rains came and kept coming. During one deceptive reprieve, I replanted the sections of peas that had rotted. A week later the entire pea section was under water!
My husband and I dug drainage ditches. A week later, I planted corn in high rows while standing on boards. After yet another week of rain, with the morning glory seed crop completely under water, we dug more drainage ditches. My poor chickens were asking for hip waders. The tomato plants were trying on new shades of yellow and purple. I had to cover the pepper plant roots three times, as rain had washed the soil from their roots, leaving them to flop on their sides.
By late June I was as ragged as the spinach plants that had been shredded by an earlier hail storm. When the second hail storm came with penny-sized hail, I screamed to the sky, “Enough!’ and I confess that I added even more moisture, in the form of tears, to my garden.
Miraculously, by mid-July the garden was looking great. I was eating broccoli, the first tomatoes, summer squash, cukes, and the garden looked lush. I felt like a battered gardener on the mend.
The mid-July black flies and no-see-ums (I live on a farm with almost no bugs) came on the day before the twister hit. I had never been chewed by black flies while haying. The twister leveled the corn – those high ridges didn’t help their stability – and knocked over the pole beans and tore the row cover off all the seed crops. I had a heck of a time getting the sheets that had been on the clothesline off the house roof.
And there was more hail. The rain gauge read only 1/4 inch, but the rain was flying in spirals and making odd triangular patterns in the air, so who can say.
A friend said she felt like she was gardening in Old Testament times. Hail, gnats, darkness (from the numerous power outages), no boils, but a severe bout with poison ivy.
By August, I was looking to the sky for frogs. So as we gardeners come to the final frost, I propose harvest celebrations, great feasts (of Biblical proportion?) with whatever has survived this growing season. Here are a few recipes, all featuring different crops, in hopes that a few if not many of them came through their trials.
4 c. broccoli florets
1 c. mushroom or chicken broth
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 c. fresh basil, packed
1/3 c. lightly toasted almonds
1/2 c. Parmesan or Asiago cheese
salt to taste
In a large pot, steam the broccoli over the broth until tender, about 4 minutes. In a food
processor, mince the garlic, then add basil and almonds, until finely chopped. Add 2 Tbsp. of the cooking broth and process until smooth. Add the broccoli, cheese and remaining broth. Process until smooth. Plan on using 1 Tbsp. pesto for every 2 ounces of pasta. Or try it on potatoes or other vegetables.
Garlicky Green Beans with Roasted Peppers
3 red, yellow or orange peppers
1 lb. green beans
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt, or salt to taste
Roast bell peppers under the broiler (about 2″ from heat) for 2 to 4 minutes, turning until all sides are blistered and charred. Steam the peppers in a covered bowl or paper bag for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bowl/bag, peel the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Slice peppers into long thin strips, then chill them in the fridge.
Steam the green beans until they’re just tender. Cool under cold water and drain. Place them in a salad bowl with the peppers and chill them. In a food processor, mince the garlic and add the olive oil.
Toss with the beans and peppers. Add salt to taste. Garnish with the minced parsley.
Baked Ginger Squash
2 lbs. Butternut or Buttercup squash
2 tsp. grated orange peel (zest)
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3 Tbsp. apple cider
Cut the squash in halves and remove the seeds. Place halves on a very lightly oiled cookie sheet, skin side up, and bake them at 400 degrees until soft, about 50 to 65 minutes. Scoop the flesh from the skin and mash it with remaining ingredients, adding more cider if moisture is needed. Serves 4.
Blend until smooth:
1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 c. cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 lb. cooked turkey
1 c. red apples
1 c. green apples
1/2 c. celery, minced
1/3 c. minced fennel bulb
½ to 1 c. slightly chopped dried cranberries
Salt to taste
Add the dressing and toss all ingredients together. Salt to taste. Chill for 1 hour. Serves 6.
Baked Pears and Cranberries
4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 1/2 c. orange juice or apple cider
4 tsp. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
Place the pears, flat side up, in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour 3/4 c.
juice mixed with the vanilla over them and place 1/2 tsp. butter in each pear cavity. Bake the pears for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees, just until tender. Do not over cook. Cool slightly.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining juice, cranberries, honey, cloves and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until the cranberries burst, about 5 minutes. Continue to simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens slightly. Adjust sweetening to taste. Serve the pears with the cranberry chutney over them. Serves 4.